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Andres Perez Death Shows Need for North Figueroa Safety Improvements

Signs at last night's vigil for Andres Perez. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Signs at last night’s vigil for Andres Perez. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Tragedy has struck again on North Figueroa Street.

Yesterday, traffic violence claimed the life of 17-year-old Andres Perez. Perez was walking to school, apparently not aware that local schools had been closed on account of a terror threat. He was in the crosswalk, crossing North Figueroa Street at Avenue 60 in Highland Park, when a large Los Angeles City Public Works Bureau of Street Services truck made a left turn and ran into him. Perez died on the spot.

Last night, locals hosted a vigil to remember Perez, and to call for safer streets to prevent future deaths.

Sadly, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) had a plan to make this portion of North Figueroa safer, but in mid-2014 the planned safety improvements were blocked by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

This is already the third traffic death on North Figueroa in 2015. On June 26, cyclist Jose Luna was killed by a speeding driver in a hit-and-run crash at North Figueroa and Marmion Way. Then on September 18, pedestrian Yolanda Lugo was killed by driver in a hit-and-run crash at North Figueroa and Avenue 55.

Councilmember Cedillo and broader Los Angeles leadership take the threat of terrorism seriously, while turning a blind eye to everyday traffic violence. LAUSD shut down 900 schools on the threat of terrorism. Metro, LAPD, LAFD, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others mobilized to support LAUSD efforts. While it is probably important to respond to the threat of terror, the threat of traffic violence is all too real. And deserves a similarly serious mobilization.

Every year roughly 200 Angelenos lose their lives to traffic violence. Compare this to pretty much none lost to terrorism. Can L.A. respond to traffic violence the way it mobilizes against terrorism? Isn’t any loss of life a tragedy worth taking seriously?

Garcetti’s agency-wide Vision Zero initiative seems like a productive first step, but it needs to translate to safer street design if the city is prioritizing preventing future tragedies. LADOT seems to be taking Vision Zero seriously, but on-the-ground safety improvements are not happening quickly enough. Vision Zero’s safety targets needs to be prioritized by reluctant councilmembers like Gil Cedillo, and also across the board in city agencies – from Public Works Bureau of Street Services to the LAPD.

For additional coverage of this story, see KTLA5, L.A. Times or Daily News. Contribute to Perez funeral expenses at GoFundMe.

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Eyes On the Street: Safer Striping At Silver Lake Blvd And Temple St

New striping and bollards makes the Silver Lake Boulevard at Temple Street a bit more livable. All photos: Joe Linton

New striping and bollards make the Silver Lake Boulevard at Temple Street a bit more livable. All photos: Joe Linton

Kudos to L.A. City Transportation Department’s (LADOT) for implementing another small livability and safety improvement. Last weekend, I came across a new striping configuration located at the intersection of Silver Lake Boulevard and Temple Street. These streets cross but do not quite intersect as Temple Street goes above on a 1934 grade-separation bridge, originally intended to reduce congestion on Silver Lake Blvd.

The area is immediately south of the 101 Freeway, so it suffers from the blight that tends to surround L.A. freeways: pollution, noise, speeding, homelessness. Drivers speed on their way on and off the freeway. Homeless people often occupy the neglected spaces.

It is not a heavy pedestrian usage area, but people do walk there, especially with an adjacent charter school, Camino Nuevo High School, recently opened. The Rampart Village Neighborhood Council worked with City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell to spruce up the space, adding the modest Historic Filipinotown Western Gateway project last year.

Drivers going east on Silver Lake tend to accelerate up the on-ramp type connector road, then whip around the corner onto eastbound Temple. This makes me look out when I frequently bicycle east staying on Silver Lake, watching out for cars merging onto Temple across my path. With the recent improvements, drivers must slow down a bit, and make nearly a full-on right turn to get on to Temple. The pedestrian crossing distance is reduced.

LADOT’s bollards there are already bruised, apparently inattentive drivers are still speeding dangerously.

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The view eastbound on Silver Lake Boulevard post-improvements. Drivers slow down to make the right turn onto the ramp street up to Temple Street.

Read more…

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Today’s L.A. Transportation Committee: Speeding, Bikes On Parking Meters

Flowchart on addressing speeding issues. Image via Strong Towns

Flowchart on addressing speeding issues. Image via Strong Towns

This afternoon the Los Angeles City Council was scheduled to hold its first hearing on motion 15-1006 aimed to reduce speeding and curb unsafe speed limit increases. Unfortunately the item was postponed to a future Transportation Committee meeting. 

Longtime readers of Streetsblog will recall that the city of Los Angeles is, to a large extent, at the mercy of car-centric California laws (outlined in the Department of Transportation – LADOT – staff report [PDF]) that essentially mandate ever-increasing speed limits. For L.A. to enforce speed limits, it must study existing speeds and raise speed limits to align with any speeding behavior encountered.

From the motion [PDF] put forward by City Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Mitch Englander, and Joe Buscaino:

The current mechanisms for setting speed limits and conducting speed enforcement were developed in an era that did not have Vision Zero as a guiding principle. Additionally, technology has evolved since the traditional methodologies were developed. Speed enforcement should reflect modern policy objectives and technological tools.

I THEREFORE MOVE that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) in consultation with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) report to the Transportation and Public Safety Committees on the current impediments to agile and effective speed enforcement and recommendations for how to enhance Los Angeles’ ability to enforce safe travel speeds; and

I FURTHER MOVE that LADOT in consultation with LAPD report back on potential pilot projects that can be implemented quickly to reduce speeding. The analysis should include but not be limited to: innovative speed zoning practices, signal timing, enforcement practices and changes to state legislation.

The committee did approve preferential parking districts, no-vehicle-sales areas, and motion 15-0701 which will allow bike parking at parking meters in Westwood. Parking meter bike parking is currently against the law in Los Angeles. Bicycle Advisory Committee chair testified that the scope of the motion should be expanded to just allow bikes to park at all meters citywide.

Committee items will need to be approved by the full City Council before taking effect.

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City Hall Vision Zero Forum Foreshadows Culture Change for L.A.

National Vision Zero advocate Leah Shahum speaking at L.A. City Hall last night. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

National Vision Zero advocate Leah Shahum speaking at L.A. City Hall last night. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night, the city of Los Angeles welcomed national safe streets advocate Leah Shahum at a forum discussing what Vision Zero will mean for Los Angeles.

For the uninitiated, Vision Zero is a road safety policy that adopts the goal of zero traffic deaths. That zero applies to everyone: people walking, driving, riding, etc. Vision Zero stems from the principle that traffic deaths are preventable and unacceptable.

The concept originated in Sweden in the 1990s and has spread to many cities in the United States. When the City Council approved Mobility Plan 2035 last month, Los Angeles became the 9th U.S. city to adopt Vision Zero. The reach of L.A.’s Vision Zero policy was extended to all city departments by Mayor Eric Garcetti via a recent mayoral executive directive. Garcetti’s directive mandates that numerous city departments work together with community groups to reduce L.A. traffic deaths to zero by 2025. The directive also includes an interim goal of reducing traffic deaths by 20 percent by 2017.

Yesterday’s forum was introduced by livability champion Councilmember Jose Huizar, who sounded an optimistic note about changes underway in the city. After adoption of Vision Zero in the Mobility Plan, Huizar declared that new ways of thinking mean “no more pilots.”

Leah Shahum heads the national non-profit Vision Zero Network. Below are some key points in her presentation:  Read more…

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Who Do We Blame for the Next Death on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge?

Current Glendale-Hyperion Bridge deficiencies foster unsafe pedestrian crossings, including High School students who walk to Marshall High School via the bridge. The L.A. City Council approved a design today that will remove a sidewalk from the bridge. Photo: Sean Meredith

Current Glendale-Hyperion Bridge deficiencies make for unsafe pedestrian crossings, including students who walk to Marshall High School via the bridge. The L.A. City Council approved a design today that will remove a sidewalk from the bridge. Photo: Sean Meredith

In a unanimous 11-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Council approved the city Bureau of Engineering’s (BOE) single-sidewalk pedestrian-killer design for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Though the item was not approved at the Public Works Committee last week, the City Council approved the item today with no public comment, after brief misleading characterizations by Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell.

Non-profits, including Los Angeles Walks, Neighborhood Council representatives, cyclists, and others in attendance who had intended to speak against the project were not allowed to address the Council. Some Atwater Village neighborhood representatives who had come to speak in favor of the sidewalk-deficient design were also denied the opportunity to offer public testimony. Some of the walkability-livability proponents testified during general public comment but, by then, the City Council had already approved the item.

Bridge safety advocates now have 30 days to challenge the city’s adoption of the environmental studies, called an IS/MND – Initial Study / Mitigated Negative Declaration. Advocates are discussing the possibility of a legal challenge. If the project isn’t stopped in court, the city will spend about two years on final designs, then will bid and construct the retrograde facility.

The crosswalk omission anticipates that people will walk up to half a mile out of their way to get to destinations. As occurs all over the world, it is predictable that pedestrians will ignore poor design, and will attempt to walk shorter routes. In this case, the city’s design will push pedestrians into the way of multiple lanes of oncoming traffic.

When the next pedestrian is killed on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, whom should we blame?

It is tempting to just blame a system that favors driving over walking but, in this case, I am going to name the names of people who had a chance to make this bridge safer, and failed to do so.

Let’s start with the deceptive and unprofessional Bureau of Engineering Bridge Program engineers, Shirley Lau and James Treadaway. These engineers have succumbed to fiscal pressures to build costly, unneeded, and unsafe bridge projects. These engineers hide behind the language of not complying with “current design standards” to push projects that endanger all Angelenos. These wrongheaded bridge projects destroy the city’s cultural and engineering heritage in order to move car traffic at unsafe speeds. Bridge Program staff misrepresent the funding situation using suggestive language to create a false urgency over losing funds. Whenever the city contacts Caltrans to reschedule funding, Caltrans complies. The Bridge Program has never lost a penny by delaying an active project, yet BOE documents assert “further delays may result in loss of funds.”

Read more…

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Senator Introduces Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Law in CA

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Senator Carol Liu’s S.B. 192 would require all bicycle riders to wear helmets, a move that would likely cut the number of people who ride bikes. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Yesterday, Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) introduced a bill in the California legislature that would require all bicycle riders, including adults, to wear a helmet, and to wear reflective clothing at night.

Senator Liu has been an ally for active transportation and bicycling, including supporting the three-foot law that took so long to get passed, and she has promoted safe walking and bicycling during her long tenure in the legislature. But if, as Liu staffer Robert Oakes told Streetsblog, Liu’s “point of view is that we should do everything to encourage active transportation,” this bill will not achieve that.

Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious calls S.B. 192 the

“Remove Cyclists From California Roads Law of 2015″ or, alternatively, the “Harass Minorities On Bikes Law of 2015.”

Oakes said the Senator and her staff looked at youth bike helmet laws as a model. Seeing that more and more states have adopted them encouraged the staff to think that California could be the first state to impose a mandatory helmet law on adults. They say that the youth helmet laws heard similar arguments—that fewer people would ride bikes—before they were adopted.

“But no one in 21 years has proposed a bill to repeal the youth helmet law,” he said.

Streetsblog would like to suggest the Senator review the research on the effects of bike helmet laws on the number of kids who ride bikes, including this gem of a conclusion from one paper: “Thus, the observed reduction in bicycle-related head injuries may be due to reductions in bicycle riding induced by the laws.”

Another suggested area of research is in how this law might be applied inequitably to different types of bicycle riders; the Senator and her staff could start with this recent Streetsblog story. Or this one.

Read more…

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Councilmember Cedillo Adds Stop Sign In Response To Fatal Hit-and-Run

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On September 14, a hit-and-run driver killed 57-year-old Gloria Ortiz. Ms. Ortiz was walking in a crosswalk in the Northeast Los Angeles community of Highland Park. The hit-and-run crime took place at the intersection of Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place, adjacent to Aldama Street Elementary School. According to KTLA5, witnesses stated that the driver “just ran her over, didn’t even turn back.”

Local residents joke darkly that speeding drivers think Avenue 50 is the name of the speed limit, not the street.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Less than a month later, yesterday, community leaders joined Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Transportation Department (LADOT) head Seleta Reynolds to highlight city efforts to make Avenue 50 safer. New stop signs were added to the intersection where Ortiz was killed. The existing somewhat-worn continental crosswalk was freshly re-painted, actually freshly re-thermoplastic-ed. @HLP90042 posted before and after photos at Twitter.

Councilmember Cedillo, who has dragged his heels on safety improvements approved for nearby North Figueroa, spoke on his commitment to “street safety, particularly around schools and where people gather.”

General Manager Reynolds emphasized that “the biggest predictor of fatalities on a street is speed, and the biggest factor in speed on your street is design” and reiterated her department’s commitment to making “safety our number one priority.”

Local resident Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, praised the city’s quick response in adding the stop sign. She described walking to Aldama School as being safe when she was younger. Today, walking her daughter to the school, she fears for their safety. Alcaraz stated that Avenue 50 is dangerous when parents are making illegal U-turns and double-parking at school drop-off and pick-up times, and, then, when the students aren’t around, Avenue 50 is dangerous because so many drivers speed. Alcaraz urged LAPD to spend more time on traffic enforcement there to prevent future tragedies.

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Cartoon Tuesday: Neighborhood Council Meeting Bike Lane Bingo

Bike Lane Bingo card by Nathan Lucero

Bike Lane Bingo card by Nathan Lucero

It’s not quite a cartoon, but it is a clever, sad, ironic laugh. Friend of the blog Nathan Lucero posted his Bike Lane meeting bingo card at the Figueroa for All Facebook group.

Not all neighborhood councils are the same; many have been very supportive of facilities for bicycling and walking. It does seem like there is, more often than not, a few complainers who trot out tired excuses for opposing these safety projects. Lucero’s card specifically references the sad, ironic struggle to make North Figueroa safer, in the face of Councilmember Cedillo’s flip-flop, a story you can read here, here, and here. The meetings are still happening as Cedillo’s staff are still pressing for crappy alternative bike routes to keep North Figueroa car-centric and dangerous.

So far, there is only one bingo card, so everyone will be calling bingo at the same moment. Read more…

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Event Promotes Awareness of CA 3-Foot Passing Bill In Effect Next Week

From this morning's #IGive3Ft press event. The 3-foot long pink bar demonstrates the three feet passing distance, though, legally, drivers shouldn't pass to the left of a bicycle. All photos by Joe Linton

A display from this morning’s #IGive3Ft press event. The 3-foot long pink bar indicates the new three-foot legal minimum passing distance space between cars and bicycles. Legally, though, cars should generally never pass to the right of a moving bicycle as this display seems to indicate. All photos by Joe Linton

This morning, California legislators, law enforcement representatives, cycling advocates, and the Automobile Association of America (AAA) gathered to promote awareness of the state’s new 3-foot passing law. Long in the works, the Three Feet for Safety Act, A.B. 1371, goes into effect next Tuesday, September 16.

As the campaign has shifted from passing the law to enforcing it, the promotional hashtag that used to be from a cyclist’s perspective, #GiveMe3, has now appropriately given way to one from a driver’s perspective, #IGive3Ft.

Here is the summary of the new law, from its legislative preamble:

The bill would prohibit, with specified exceptions, the driver of the motor vehicle that is overtaking or passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway from passing at a distance of less than 3 feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. The bill would make a violation of these provisions an infraction punishable by a $35 fine. The bill would also require the imposition of a $220 fine on a driver if a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist causing bodily harm to the bicyclist, and the driver is found to be in violation of the above provisions.

The well-attended press event took place in front of Serious Cycling bike shop in Northridge. Most speakers, including the law’s authors, Assemblymembers Steven Bradford and Matt Dababneh, emphasized that the new rule will make streets safer for everyone. 

Assemblymember Bradford explains California's new 3-foot passing law.

Assemblymember Bradford explains California’s new 3-foot passing law at this morning’s press event in Northridge.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Milton Olin Ride and Vigil Demands D.A. Justice

Milton Olin Ride passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday’s Justice for Milt Olin Ride #rideformilt passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Yield to Life, and Ghost Bikes hosted a ride and vigil for Milton Olin. Olin was bicycling in a Calabasas bike lane when County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Wood drove into the bike lane and ended Olin’s life. The sheriff was distracted, typing a non-emergency message on his on-board computer. Last week, eight months after the crash, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute the killer, stating that Wood’s distracted driving constituted “reasonable behavior.”

Yesterday’s ride started at the crash site in Calabasas, and rode 30 miles to the D.A.’s headquarters in downtown L.A. Roughly 75 riders were on the ride as it entered downtown, and the number swelled to roughly 125 for the vigil at Grand Park.

LACBC submitted this letter (read it – it is excellent and thorough in outlining appropriate measures to prosecute Wood for his deadly behavior) and are encouraging others concerned to write to D.A. Lacey to demand she prosecute Olin’s killer. The D.A. can be reached at webmail@da.lacounty.gov.

For links to media coverage of yesterday’s ride and vigil, check these articles from SBLA headlines: CBS, ABCLA Times, LA Register, and Daily News. See also earlier SBLA coverage of this outrageous killing and the inexcusable lack of prosecution. More photos after the jump.  Read more…